Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2005 Issue

Amazon Cuts The Cord: Now What For Abe and Alibris?

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The mighty river is washing away its partners.


By Michael Stillman

Just when it seemed there was enough confusion in the online bookselling world, Amazon decided there wasn't, and proceeded to terminate their well-established relations with the top used book selling sites. The ramifications of their decision immediately spread to Abe, Alibris, and Half.com. Where it all will settle is anyone's guess, but once the stuff hits the fan, no one is ever quite the same.

Of course Abebooks has been leading the way in controversy over the past few months. They have been redesigning their site in a way which, if intended to antagonize their sellers, was certainly successful. On the assumption this was not their intention, the call is still out as to whether these changes will be a step in the right direction. Technical glitches in the implementation have evidently affected sales and raised much ire in the Abebooks community, while an obscuring of direct contacts with the individual dealers has particularly angered antiquarian, rare, and other high end booksellers (see our article from last month: http://www.americanaexchange.com/NewAE/aemonthly/article.asp?f=1&page=1&id=290). The last thing Abe needs at this point is more controversy, but more controversy is just what they have been granted, courtesy of Amazon.

As everyone undoubtedly knows, Amazon is the world's largest online seller of new books. A few years ago, they expanded into used books as well, and quickly developed a huge supply of available titles through cooperative ventures with used book leaders Abebooks and Alibris. Dealers who listed their books on these sites could automatically have their books listed on Amazon as well. A similar program was also instituted with the website of the largest traditional (bricks and mortar) new book seller, Barnes and Noble.

However, on or around September 20, Amazon informed its partners that they would be partners no more. Amazon decided that it would no longer accept listings from what Abe calls "aggregators," sites which aggregate listings from multiple booksellers. They would only accept listings from the individual booksellers themselves. This change is major. While we do not know what percentage of Abe and Alibris sales are actually made on Amazon, we do know that it is substantial, and for some booksellers, it is a majority of their sales. Once the dust settles, we can anticipate some of those dealers may be realigning their loyalties based on how their sales are affected. For beleaguered Abe, the timing could not be worse, as there is much disaffection already within their community. Fence mending will be paramount for them.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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